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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues


Kenan Institute 2024 Grand Challenge: Business Resilience
Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues

Thomas Stith

CEO, The Michael Thomas Group Inc.; former president, North Carolina Community College System

As a highly accomplished leader in the public and private sectors, Thomas Stith has an extraordinary record of improving operations, increasing productivity, and scaling revenue. He is recognized as a thought leader on economic development, small business, investment, development opportunities and public policy.

Thomas’s career spans numerous industries, including state and local government, higher education, technology, nonprofits, health care, transportation and energy/utilities. His commitment to driving measurable organizational and community change is at the core of his work.

Earlier in his career, Thomas served as a Special Assistant to the Governor of North Carolina. He also served three terms as a Councilman with the City of Durham. Later, he returned to the Governor’s Office as Governor McCrory’s Chief of Staff, where among other responsibilities, he led the establishment of the $60M Venture Capital Multiplier Fund to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the state.

Thomas’s devotion to improving his community is evidenced through his work with organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he served as the District Director for North Carolina and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the SBA, he facilitated $16B in direct assistance to North Carolina small businesses, contributing to the stability and growth of the state during the COVID 19 pandemic. Through his work with the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, Thomas bolstered the entrepreneurial and small business ecosystem of North Carolina and promoted private enterprise as a critical component of capitalism.

Thomas’s most recent tenure was as President of the North Carolina Community College System, the nation’s third largest, comprised of 58 individual colleges across North Carolina. During his tenure, he secured a historic $1.4B legislative investment, turned around a declining enrollment, and redesigned recruiting efforts that resulted in an unprecedented number of diversity hires within the senior team leadership.

Thomas earned a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Business Administration from North Carolina Central University. He is also certified in nonprofit management from Duke University and holds a Directorship Certification from the National Association of Corporate Directors. Thomas and his wife Yolanda have three adult children and live in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Stith was a 2023 Distinguished Fellow and participated in the Kenan Institute Grand Challenge Workforce Disrupted: Seeking the Labor Market’s Next Equilibrium.